A poor black man in a rented van, during an extensive police chase, crashed into a car filled with affluent, white suburban teens in Wheeling, IL., killing one. the driver of the van is now indicted for murder along with several other charges. His trail and sentencing is likely to be swift, partly because of the details of the incident and partly because he is black.
I know. It’s just not politic to point this out. We cannot acknowledge our latent racism, or our history of slavery and segregation outside the sterile confines of the classroom. We must remain in denial about how our concepts of race factor into all of our interactions between blacks and whites in America. But, as is sung in the Broadway musical Avenue Q, "Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist".
As I see it, the harm from racism comes from our denial of it. I hurts everyone. White are forever shadowed by a specter of the Master Race ethos. Blacks, in turn, suffer from the stigmata of oppression with its attendant - and also unacknowledged - low cultural self-esteem. This poor cultural image gives rise to urban black’s insistence on creating a unique mark on American culture, thereby giving themselves credibility they don’t feel they already have.
This feeling is as unfortunate as it is false. Already, many black men and women have made substantial positive impacts on American society, without which we wouldn’t be the nation we are today. Many more will emerge. Too slowly perhaps are curricula changing to celebrate the vast legacy of black Americans, but it is happening.
Whites, meanwhile, still cling to the illusion of lordship. This too still plays out in our education system. While immigration continues in our "melting pot" of a nation, bringing people from non-European countries, white Americans - especially those who have chosen to distance themselves from diverse neighborhoods - are becoming edgy. They feel encroached upon. As my work friend and red-stater said yesterday, "Mexico is invading." He worries needlessly about the state of the union. I see it as making America stronger, and perhaps more importantly, more representative of the global community. Such a melange of cultural viewpoints may temper our latent racism by forcing people to learn to live with differences instead of arming themselves against them. That would really be the spreading of Democracy.
Meanwhile if impoverished inner-city blacks continue to cause havoc, stereotypes will prevail in media and in the justice department. The Wheeling tragedy is sad, all the more so because it was avoidable. Not by the police, perhaps (who are being sued by the family of the victim in what I see as a shameless ploy to profit from their tragedy by trading the life of their son for possible financial gain), but by common sense among communities and an outreach between cultures. Fist, however, we must admit our racial biases before any progress is made.